Peace came to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots after an operation on the Eastern Mediterranean Island launched by Türkiye in 1974, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said Wednesday.
“If this operation had not been carried out, Cyprus would have been worse off than Crete. They would have wiped out all the Turks on the island,” Ersin Tatar told Anadolu ahead of the Cyprus Peace Operation’s anniversary on July 20.
Under former President Archbishop Makarios, economic measures were taken to push Turks off the island, Tatar underlined, adding that the junta that seized power in Athens in 1967 sought to annex Cyprus by supporting terrorist groups who wanted to join it with Greece, thereby encircling Türkiye.
“They were working to completely turn Cyprus into a Greek island, disregarding the rights and laws of Türkiye and the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean, to change the geographical advantages to their favor.
“On July 20, 1974, the Cyprus Peace Operation disrupted all these schemes, and left them dumbfounded,” Ersin said.
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece, and the UK.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the dispute.
Greek Cypriots caught off guard by Turkish troops
Tatar pointed out that since the US had been able to prevent earlier attempts by Türkiye to send troops to Cyprus, the Greeks were not expecting the Turkish operation in 1974.
Underlining the resilience of the Turkish Cypriots as they endured attacks from the Greek side until the peace operation, Tatar said Türkiye’s government displayed the necessary courage and determination and ordered the Turkish soldiers to land on the island in 1974.
He stressed that Türkiye, as a guarantor country, had the legal right to launch the unilateral intervention, emphasizing that the operation marked a historic turning point for Turkish Cypriots as it led them to establish peace and freedom.
“With the arrival of Turkish soldiers on the island, peace came to both Greeks and Turks. Since that day, there hasn’t been any conflict or bloodshed in Cyprus. Cyprus, both north and south, has entered a new phase.”